The People Factor

The People Factor: Strengthening America by Investing in Public Service

Linda J. Bilmes
W. Scott Gould
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 359
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7864/j.ctt6wphq0
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  • Book Info
    The People Factor
    Book Description:

    Successful businesses have spent the past two decades retooling and rethinking how to manage their people better. Most big companies that have survived and prospered in the 21st century view employees as a vital strategic asset. In comparison, the U.S. federal government is a Stone Age relic, with its top-down bureaucracy, stovepiping of labor and responsibilities, and lack of training and investment in its own public servants. The inevitable result is a government not keeping up with the complex demands placed on it. In The People Factor,Linda Bilmes and Scott Gould present a blueprint for reinvigorating the public sector in order to deliver results for America. Their premise is that the federal government can achieve the same gains as the best private sector and military organizations by managing its people better. Their new vision for public service is based on "The People Factor," a set of management tools drawn from best practices in successful companies, the military, and high-performing government agencies. Part One of The People Factor book shows why the U.S. personnel system needs reform, revealing the high price of inaction. Part Two lays out the specific steps that must be taken to achieve the necessary gains. Part Three focuses on how to implement the People Factor and make the authors' vision a reality. They argue that the next president needs to turn this issue into a top priority and use political capital to push reform. Highlights of the book include: • Extensive original survey research • Case studies from government and the military • Interviews with leading thinkers on strategic human capital • A number of specific proposed innovations • A detailed proposal for a nationwide effort to train and revitalize the public service

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-0157-6
    Subjects: Political Science, Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    Linda J. Bilmes and W. Scott Gould
  5. Part I. Strengthening Public Service
    • 1 A Call to Arms: Why the Federal Workforce Must Become a National Priority
      (pp. 3-39)

      In the time it takes to read this chapter, federal government agencies will have solved multiple crimes, supervised the safe take-offs and landings of hundreds of airplanes, issued an updated national weather forecast, monitored the skies for any sign of enemy attacks, issued visas to tourists around the world, planted trees, rescued struggling ships at sea, paid food stamps to hungry citizens, operated on wounded soldiers, and processed some $50 million in banking transactions.

      For the most part, Americans take all this public service for granted. After all, the federal government is the largest single employer in the United States....

    • 2 The Power of Strategic Human Capital: Lessons from the Private Sector
      (pp. 40-60)

      There is compelling evidence from the private sector that companies do better—in stock market performance, customer satisfaction, and innovation—when they invest strongly in their workforce. Employees of such “enlightened employers” report much higher levels of job satisfaction and loyalty to their organizations. The established correlation between the level of investment in human capital and organizational performance has profound implications for the federal workforce.

      This chapter provides empirical evidence for this correlation drawn from the experience of high-performing organizations that adopted human-capital management techniques to manage and motivate their employees. This “people factor” approach has produced significant, sustained improvement...

    • 3 The People Factor in Government
      (pp. 61-98)

      The people factor approach to management has produced financial benefits in the private sector by making every worker feel valued and by recognizing his or her contribution to the success of the enterprise. Organizations that adopt this strategy tailor their management systems—the way they recruit, train, evaluate, compensate, reward, lead, and promote employees—to the individual worker and the specific type of job.

      Our research sought to answer several related questions about the people factor:

      First, does this model of management work equally well in governmental organizations?Given the many differences between for-profit and nonprofit organizations, we can intuit...

  6. Part II. Investing in Public Service
    • 4 Leadership in the Public Sector
      (pp. 101-114)

      The many hundreds of books about the “art” of leadership emphasize qualities such as vision, optimism, self-confidence, persistence, charisma, and originality. These traits are the mark of good leaders in the public as well as the private realm, but there are fewer such leaders in government. However, effective leadership will be essential to the success of a major change effort¹—especially one that requires transforming organizational cultures.²

      Government poses many unusual leadership challenges, in terms of sheer scale and influence. For example, the secretary of commerce is responsible not only for 40,000 permanent employees but also for the nearly1...

    • 5 Why Organizational Structure Is Important
      (pp. 115-134)

      The structure of an organization—whether a small company or a vast government agency—ultimately consists of a set of relationships between people and between their work units. The structure signals the power, prestige, and privilege associated with various positions. It also divides workers into groups with common interests and motivations (such as management and staff, or hourly workers and salaried workers).¹ Thus structure has a profound influence on the way people work and how they feel about their jobs. Its influence is particularly evident in the motivation, behavior, and performance of workers in a hierarchy.

      To add to the...

    • 6 Achieving Excellence in Human Resources
      (pp. 135-172)

      Anyone browsing through the business section of a bookshop will make a startling discovery: almost none of the books are about human resources (HR). CEOs may routinely say that people are the most important factor in their company’s success, but apparently that is not what they are reading about on the plane. There are hundreds of titles on leadership, organization, teams, marketing, and management. There are aisles of books on accounting and finance. There are books on strategy, capabilities, and “enabling platforms.” There are biographies of rock star CEOs and books about trendy companies like Google. There are thousands of...

    • 7 Training
      (pp. 173-193)

      Training and education are the most powerful levers for reform in government today. This applies to employees at all levels, particularly managers and supervisors. In the military and in top private sector companies, it is nearly impossible for an individual to be promoted into the managerial ranks without receiving training in how to lead, manage, and evaluate subordinates. But in the federal government, such training is rare. Even when government leaders set aside money for this purpose, training budgets are the first to be cut.

      Fortunately, the government has attracted some extremely dedicated and talented managers throughout its history. Indeed,...

    • 8 Managing Performance
      (pp. 194-216)

      Perhaps no other topic has attracted as much study and effort as “performance management,” the drive to improve how well organizations and the people in them can function. This is a broad area, encompassing improvements at many levels, including individuals, teams, departments, and the overall organization. Leading experts in the field define business performance management as all the processes, information, and systems used by managers to set strategy, develop plans, monitor execution, forecast performance, and report results in order to achieve sustainable success, no matter how success may be defined.¹ In government as well, an organization’s mission and strategic objectives...

  7. Part III. Enacting Public Service Reform
    • [Part III. Introduction]
      (pp. 217-220)

      Reforms of government-wide systems—whether they are financial, information technology, policy, budgetary, or human capital systems—require determined leadership. They are difficult to achieve in the United States because its system of government discourages radical change. It empowers many stakeholders in the system to slow or block change; yet no stakeholder has a preponderance of power to make change happen. Instead, many stakeholders with a wide array of interests must be consulted. That said, we believe that personnel reform can be achieved through vision, skill, and leadership.

      In part I, we made the case for action, explaining why the personnel...

    • 9 A Job for the President: Engaging Stakeholders to Reform Public Service
      (pp. 221-242)

      It is almost a truism to say that public service is important. But fundamentally restructuring the government to prize and reward public sector employees requires leadership from the top and a coming together of the many interested parties.

      This is especially challenging when the constituencies that are affected are fragmented and the subject matter is not too captivating. Everyone agrees that it is important, but it is just not a “hot” topic.

      To bring urgency to the problem of climate change, former vice president Al Gore produced the filmAn Inconvenient Truth. His challenge was to find a way to...

    • 10 Funding the Transition Program
      (pp. 243-269)

      Transforming the government workforce to create the skills necessary for the twenty-first century will require an integrated human capital program. The program we propose is designed to augment the skills of existing civil servants and to make the public sector an employer of choice for high-quality applicants at all levels. This requires a substantial infusion of resources over the next decade to correct for the sustained underinvestment in the federal workforce of previous decades. As Paul Light points out: “The federal workforce will not rebound without a sustained effort to overcome the key barriers to performance embedded in the current...

    • 11 Concluding Observations on Public Service Reform
      (pp. 270-278)

      A compelling case for reform does not guarantee action. There are dozens of pressing public problems that demand attention, and “investing in the federal workforce” seldom features in the top ten. The economic crisis gripping the United States will make it easy to set aside the public service issue, or to say that the country simply cannot afford it. This would be a serious mistake. Our argument throughout this book is that the best single investment to strengthen the nation is to upgrade the skills and competence of the workforce that will be charged with meeting these challenges. Whether the...

  8. Appendixes
    • APPENDIX A Survey of College Juniors and Seniors—Attitudes toward Working for the Public and Private Sectors
      (pp. 279-289)
    • APPENDIX B Summary of Laws, Reforms, and Key Demonstration Projects and Test Cases Pertaining to the Civil Service
      (pp. 290-292)
    • APPENDIX C List of Interviewees
      (pp. 293-295)
    • APPENDIX D Federal Election Commission Vacancy Announcement
      (pp. 296-299)
    • APPENDIX E The History of Personnel Reform
      (pp. 300-317)
    • APPENDIX F U.S. Government Merit Principles
      (pp. 318-320)
  9. Notes
    (pp. 321-346)
  10. Index
    (pp. 347-359)
  11. THE AUTHORS
    (pp. 360-360)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 361-361)